Interview with Ricky Sim
Ricky Sim, CEO & Managing Director, Advantest Singapore
By GO SEMI & Beyond staff
Singapore is home to the world’s top 3 wafer foundries, 30 major IC design centers, and offices for most of the leading fabless chipmakers and outsourced semiconductor assembly and test suppliers (OSATS). Similarly, six out of the world’s 10 largest semiconductor companies now have a presence in Malaysia. To learn more about the business environment in this region, we talked with Advantest Singapore CEO and Managing Director, Ricky Sim, who also shared his vision for the company going forward.
What do you see as the key factors driving the semiconductor industry growth in the Singapore/Malaysia region?
There is a combination of factors impacting the pace of growth here:
- The stable political environment and pro-business government policies to attract foreign investments and R&D efforts, including IP protection, definitely help. There is government support with taxes and other incentives to develop the semiconductor and electronics manufacturing ecosystem in the region.
- A ready and stable infrastructure, e.g., utilities, transportation, logistics and more.
- Access to a broad talent pool and a competitive workforce. This allows for a high degree of productivity.
- Availability of engineers, production operators, supervisors, first- and middle-level managers and senior managers – essentially, availability of talent at a reasonable cost to maintain competitiveness.
- Communication is relatively straightforward. English is the common business language, and some are also conversant in a second language, typically Mandarin or Malay. It is fairly simple for foreigners to operate in Singapore and Malaysia and, likewise, for people here to reach out to the other countries in the region.
- Both Singapore and Malaysia are strategically located in the South Asia Pacific region, with easy access to major markets and consumer insights.
- The massive growth in the Internet of Things (IoT) has helped to spur the demand for memory, wireless, microcontroller units and automotive electronics. The major players have a base in this region, and they can continue to benefit from this growth.
What needs to happen for this growth to continue?
First, global consumption must increase. The semiconductor business is very much a global business, so the major players have global presence and reach. Second, the value-add in terms of engineering content and productivity must increase. Smart integrated factories, production automation, R&D contributions and engineering value-add will be important.
Critical success factors will be the talent pool and collaborations between businesses and government agencies. The education system must attract and train young talents, and ensure that the talented individuals coming from universities and other higher education institutions have the relevant knowledge and skills to support the growth.
What impact do you believe developments in other regions, e.g., the U.K. “Brexit,” the new U.S. administration, etc., will have on the electronics business in Singapore & Malaysia?
It is still too early to tell the actual impact. This is a global business. Any uncertainties will, of course, create concerns regarding the economic outlook. Protectionist sentiments may hinder foreign direct investment (FDI) and transfer of intellectual capital. Should additional tariffs be imposed on imports, it may impact margins and/or consumption. In turn, this will place added pressure on the entire supply chain. Generally, any decisions or policies that hamper free trade and retard economic growth will impact business negatively. To mitigate the risks, governments are already working on alternative trade deals to forge forward.
How has Advantest Singapore grown in the region, and what role does it need to play going forward?
To sustain our growth in this region, we must focus on customers and their needs, and support their strategies. Knowledge transfer, productivity gain and cost optimization efforts will be instrumental. We need to anticipate trends and prepare for them in advance. We will work with customers and agencies to train and build up the talent pool while strengthening our internal processes across the regions and preparing our people to anticipate needs and to support growth.
What is your overall vision for Advantest Singapore? What growth goals for the business do you have that you can share?
Our key goals are to grow with our customers and grow multi-dimensionally. It will be essential to continually upgrade our skills, learn new technologies, build up our expertise and expand our coverage in the region.
Beyond the customer team, Advantest Singapore houses other global functions, and we look forward to leveraging the respective functional experts to support corporate initiatives and help make Advantest an even greater company!